There is a small island off the Gulf coast of Florida that has a refuge known for its rich expanse of wildlife.
It is a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Florida called Ding Darling.
With 5,200 acres of protected wilderness, there are many species of mammals and reptiles including endangered and threatened species.
On a bird migration route and in a subtropical climate, it also boasts 245 bird species.
The more habitats a place has, the more variety of wildlife exist. Here there are numerous habitats.
This refuge has the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S.
Mangroves are trees that live in salt water and exist only in tropical and sub-tropical locations. Relatively rare in the U.S., there are numerous groves here, and three different species.
Other habitats at Ding Darling include freshwater marsh and ponds, tidal mud flats, hardwood forest, and seagrass beds. Each habitat hosts different species.
Florida is a popular place for Americans to enjoy warm weather year round, and in 1945 this acreage was almost sold to developers.
Fortunately, an environmental hero, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, convinced President Truman to sign an Executive Order creating the refuge, thereby preventing the sale.
More info: J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR
The refuge has trails and boardwalks, a four-mile wildlife drive, and many wildlife viewing areas.
In addition to the extensive refuge, there is literally another side to Sanibel Island.
As a barrier island, it extends several miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and has a shelf of white sand beaches.
An easy uncrowded walk along the beach always produced a new and beautiful sight. Leaping dolphins, shells and mollusks, egrets everywhere.
Birds and mammals wherever you look…it is a quiet piece of heaven.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander
Essential book if you go: Living Sanibel by Charles Sobczak